|DVD Romantic Drama|
|Written by Bill Warren|
|Wednesday, 25 June 1997|
Cameron Crowe's script for Jerry Maguire defies current Hollywood wisdom: it lacks the three-act structure, and in fact lacks much structure at all. But it was easily one of the best movies of 1996. It's perfectly cast, with the best role Tom Cruise had in years, as well as star-making parts for both Renee Zellweger and Cuba Gooding, Jr., who won the Supporting Actor Oscar. It's tender, emotional, funny, romantic and tough-minded. Not the least of its virtues is six-year-old Jonathan Lipnicki, a funny, bright and utterly lovable little boy, who never seems a bit precocious, and so never wears out his welcome.
Jerry Maguire is a top sports agent working for Sports Management International; he tells us in narration that he's a very busy guy, always out for the money, and averages 264 phone calls a day. Jerry is slick, glib, confident and well-placed; he's engaged to gorgeous, sexy NFL publicist Avery (Kelly Preston) who is even more of an over-achiever than Jerry. But when the son of an injured hockey player cuts through Jerry's layer of horsepucky, he goes through a dark night of the soul. So in the dead of night, Jerry writes what he views as a mission statement, "The Things We Think and Do Not Say: The Future of Our Business." It's idealistic, it's optimistic, and it gets him fired in a week, fired by Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr), the icy-hearted go-getter Jerry brought into the business.
Jerry tries to talk his clients into sticking with him, but Bob gets to almost all of them first. The only client who stays with Jerry for sure is Arizona Cardinals football player Rod Tidwell (Gooding), who makes one demand of Jerry: "Show me the money." Young player Frank Cushman (Jerry O'Connell) and his father Matt (an unbilled Beau Bridges) also vow to stay with him, but "Cush" is such a superstar that Sugar goes after, and gets him. When Jerry tried to get other idealists to join him in leaving SMI, only one person goes with him: Dorothy Boyd (Renee Zellweger), a 26-year-old single mother who believes in him and his statement of principles. Jerry breaks up with Avery, and begins a romance with Dorothy, who falls in love with him, but fears he doesn't love her.
Jerry Maguire meanders on its loose, floppy way; Maguire learns that Rod's demand for the money isn't simply greed, but an awareness that he has only a short time to make it as a football superstar and then only a few years in which to earn the big bucks for his family for years to come. Jerry has to help Rod succeed, and Rod tries to help Jerry, too.
Cruise is latest in a long line of performers underestimated as actors because of their good looks. When he has been well cast, as in Risky Business, Top Gun and The Firm, his dynamic personality, killer grin and intensity light of up the screen like no one else today. I can't think of another contemporary actor who could have played this role as well as Cruise does; it's not just that it's tailored to him -- which it is -- but that he understands the insecurity behind Jerry's sleek facade. Jerry is a much nicer guy than the other sports agents around him; they see this as his weakness -- and so does Jerry for some of the film.
Renee Zellweger has starred in only one or two independent films, most notably Love and a .45. That makes her a highly unlikely choice for the love interest opposite one of the top stars in Hollywood -- usually such a role would go to another top star, but she was precisely the right choice. She's attractive but only in a girl-next-door way; she's not gorgeous in the slightest, so her natural looks root the film in reality more than if a woman as beautiful as Cruise had played the role.
Cameron Crowe has only directed three movies, Say Anything, Singles and now Jerry Maguire. As a writer, he has a great way with dialog, and as a director, he's clearly very good with actors. Everyone who has a line has a character, everyone has a moment in thesun.
The photography by Janusz Kaminski is excellent, with a great use of color; the song score is particularly good, ranging over a wide area of popular music, from The Who through Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, with stopoffs at Springsteen and Dylan.
Primarily a comedy for the first two thirds, Jerry Maguire turns earnest and serious toward the end -- and never loses the audience. This messy movie is warm, smart and friendly, and was a hit the world over, and you can still hear echoes of its famous catch phrase, "Show Me the Money." Does anyone remember, though, that ultimately it wasn't about the money?
The DVD lacks any interesting extras, featuring just the usual alternate language tracks and subtitles, but it's a handsome transfer with especially good sound. Check out chapters 32, 47 and 55 through 57 (where the football games are concentrated) to hear what a big-studio sound team can really do.